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daverupa
18 Jul 17, 19:25
Without constraining responses by using a poll, I want to ask:

1. To what extent is critical thinking an essential component of contemplative practice? (Here is a definition (http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766) & discussion of that term) What, if anything, is as important - or even more important - than critical thinking with respect to examining contemplative claims & practices?

(And you know, let me also ask:

2. Who has/has not taken e.g. college classes in critical thinking, or otherwise engaged in a specific attempt to learn it?)

CedarTree
18 Jul 17, 21:27
Actual practice.

I studied logic and philosophy in school. Deep meditation practice provides experiential content and the "well" for were that Philosophy and logic is later formalized.

They all work together it's why every religion (most of) stress practice and yet have a large philosophical and apologetics library.

Usually it goes like this deep experiences and understanding the nature of life and such - Philosophy trying to codify and explain experience content - Lastly apologetics. Apologetics is usually the worst of the worst material but it's how a lot of people have to function in the beginning of their practice and or quest for truth. Still is a pretty terrible arena lol

Element
19 Jul 17, 00:20
The Pali suttas are exceptionally clear about how to practise therefore no critical thinking is required in this respect.

Here, genuine contemplative practise has its sole foundation in "vossagga" ("letting go"; "relinquishment"), as described in SN 48.10 & also at the end of MN 118 (in relation to the seven factors of enlightenment). The entirety of contemplative practise is as described in the meditation suttas as: 'abandoning covetousness & distress in relation to everything'.

However, the masses/plethora of teachers, scholars, commentaries, mistranslated suttas, etc, is what requires much critical thinking.

If there remains questioning & critical thinking, there remains covetousness & distress, therefore there is no contemplative practise. Buddhist contemplative practise require the total abandonment of the intention to practise contemplative practise.

From 4:32.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qu7mtlbVBOA

Aloka
19 Jul 17, 09:41
Who has/has not taken e.g. college classes in critical thinking, or otherwise engaged in a specific attempt to learn it?


I haven't taken a formal course in critical thinking - but having trained as a schoolteacher and as a counsellor for troubled teenagers, I think I've probably learned something about it along the way.



However, the masses/plethora of teachers, scholars, commentaries, mistranslated suttas, etc, is what requires much critical thinking


Yes, I think this is important, especially in the cases where revered teachers (eg in Mahayana/Vajrayana and Zen) have been exposed as significantly less than responsible when taking sexual advantage of vunerable students, managing centres etc

As for commentaries, poor translations and possible later add-ons to suttas - it also seems important to be able to apply critical thinking and investigation.




If there remains questioning & critical thinking, there remains covetousness & distress




I don't think that need be necessarily so, if questions are finally resolved it could provide a sense of great relief and "letting go." which might be of benefit to one's personal practice.

This is an excerpt from the article "A Critical Mind" on the website of Karma Yeshe Rabgye who is a western Tibetan Buddhist monk:




The problem with blindly following what you are told, or have read, is that you are liable to get yourself tangled up in some mystical story and miss what Buddha actually taught. Now, there is nothing wrong with stories, as long as you can extract the point from the story and not just believe the words to be true. This is where critical thinking comes in. If we test the words against the Buddha’s discourses and our own experiences, we should be able to follow the Buddha’s path.

However, if you just believe what a teacher has told you, or you have read, you may set off down the wrong path, get disillusioned and end up with more suffering. If you believe what elders have told you, without checking, you could get totally wrapped up in superstitions and old wives tales. Again, this is going to lead you down the wrong path and you may start thinking of Buddha as a god – which he clearly wasn’t.

Let’s expand on this point. When Buddha was asked if he was a god or a celestial being he stated that he was not, but he was awakened. Now, if you read some stories you could start to believe that he was a god, because they state he was born from under the arm, he walked as soon as he was born, where he placed his feet lotuses sprung up and he had many special marks on his body. So if you don’t test these words against your experience and the discourses you will see Buddha as a god.

You may wonder what is wrong with that. I believe if you see Buddha as a god you will pray to him for help. Whereas, if you see him as a human teacher you will not expect him to do anything for you, and you will in fact do the work yourself. We have to remember Buddhism is an inward journey that you have to work on yourself. So this is why seeing Buddha as a god is a problem.

This is just one simple example, but of course there are numerous others. So, as the sutra states, carefully study the sentences word by word. If you find them not to be true, you should reject them. Remember, you must study them without approval and without scorn. This is so you are not just picking the bits you like and find easy to follow, or discarding things you find unpalatable and hard to do. That is harder than it sounds, because our nature is to try to reaffirm our beliefs.

There are many gurus or teachers who would give you different advice to this. They would insist you follow what they say and if you don’t you will never reach enlightenment or whatever goal you have set yourself. I believe you should test these teachers the same way you test the written word. If what they are saying cannot be found in the discourses or does not fit into your experiences, you should proceed with great caution. This is not easy to do if you regard your teacher as a higher being or some sort of god, but if you see them as a human being with good knowledge, it is easier to do.

Whenever you study Buddhism please do it with an open and critical mind. That way you will be on the right track.

http://buddhismguide.org/a-critical-mind/





Edit The reference Karma Yeshe Rabgye uses in the earlier part of the article that I didn't quote, is from "The Four Great References" in the Mahaparanibbana Sutta

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.16.1-6.vaji.html#ref4


:peace:

Lazy Eye
19 Jul 17, 13:15
1a. To what extent is critical thinking an essential component of contemplative practice? (Here is a definition (http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766) & discussion of that term)

While I value critical thinking highly and wish there were more of it, I'm not sure it has much bearing on contemplative practice per se. Most of the practices I'm familiar with do not emphasize conceptualization, though some do involve analysis.

It is relevant, though, to examining the framework of ideas, beliefs, and assumptions that surround the contemplative practice. For example, the Eastern Orthodox church has a profound contemplative tradition. However, the framework is monotheistic, and so a person who has examined monotheism and found it implausible probably wouldn't be able to undertake that kind of practice. The cognitive dissonance would be too distracting.

1b. What, if anything, is as important - or even more important - than critical thinking with respect to examining contemplative claims & practices?

I don't think anything is more important. If one doesn't accept the fundamental claims and assumptions that a practice is based on, how can one do the practice? There will be too much noise and doubt.

We sometimes see people in the Buddhist world say "don't worry about this topic now -- just practice." In my view this is just kicking the can down the road. The claims and assumptions will have to be faced at some point and it's better to address them at the outset, when one isn't influenced by factors such as having invested time and energy in a tradition, feeling part of a group, feeling loyal to a teacher, etc.

Let me add a caveat, though: humans are not fully or consistently rational in our mindset/behavior, and so it may be a defensible choice to accept a practice that contains non-rational elements and meets a psychological need. Some folks need an outlet for their right-brain impulses.

2. Who has/has not taken e.g. college classes in critical thinking, or otherwise engaged in a specific attempt to learn it?

Some exposure in college; more in graduate school. I also provide a "quick and dirty" overview in a course that I'm currently teaching.

daverupa
19 Jul 17, 15:28
Lazy Eye, why do you think that it's defensible to reject the use of critical thinking in order to accept a conclusion based solely on personal preferences?

I'd also like some more examples where you would say "critical thinking is useless/unimportant in this case".

Lazy Eye
19 Jul 17, 16:35
Lazy Eye, why do you think that it's defensible to reject the use of critical thinking in order to accept a conclusion based solely on personal preferences?

I believe the human species in general is characterized by a mix of rational deliberation and magical thinking. Because magical thinking is probably an evolved trait, it doesn't just disappear when things like naturalism, rationalism and empiricism enter the scene. People go on thinking magically nevertheless, or it bubbles up in odd ways -- as, for instance, in the case of Schreber. Obviously there's a spectrum here, with some individuals demonstrating the tendency to a greater degree than others.

Thus, it's likely that some people will continue to have a need for religion, or for spiritual practices that contain some non-rational element. It's defensible in the sense of "if this helps you and alleviates your mental suffering, fine."

I don't see this so much in terms of validating personal preferences, but rather of acknowledging that this is where we're at as a species.


I'd also like some more examples where you would say "critical thinking is useless/unimportant in this case".

I had in mind anapanasati (which is what I practice, mostly) and shikantanza -- one doesn't normally sit down on the zafu with the intention of cogitating one's way through a philosophical problem, right?

Anyway, that's my take. What's yours?

daverupa
20 Jul 17, 10:11
I believe the human species in general is characterized by a mix of rational deliberation and magical thinking.

This is where critical thinking has a strong value, precisely because of the human proclivity to make mistakes in reasoning, assessing likelihoods, etc.


Because magical thinking is probably an evolved trait... Thus, it's likely that some people will continue to have a need for religion, or for spiritual practices that contain some non-rational element. It's defensible in the sense of "if this helps you and alleviates your mental suffering, fine."... this is where we're at as a species.

Please read the link I provided in the OP. Critical thinking isn't mere 'cogitation':


It entails the examination of those structures or elements of thought implicit in all reasoning: purpose, problem, or question-at-issue; assumptions; concepts; empirical grounding; reasoning leading to conclusions; implications and consequences; objections from alternative viewpoints; and frame of reference. Critical thinking — in being responsive to variable subject matter, issues, and purposes — is incorporated in a family of interwoven modes of thinking, among them: scientific thinking, mathematical thinking, historical thinking, anthropological thinking, economic thinking, moral thinking, and philosophical thinking.


Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way.

...but nevermind that. "If it feels good, do it", you seem to be saying.

Lazy Eye
20 Jul 17, 12:48
This is where critical thinking has a strong value, precisely because of the human proclivity to make mistakes in reasoning, assessing likelihoods, etc.

I don't disagree at all. It has essential value, for the reasons your mention.

However, the capacity for critical thinking differs among people. Some people are fundamentally not very rational and I doubt that exposure to critical thinking will change that. On the contrary, they will simply run away from it as fast as they can.


"If it feels good, do it", you seem to be saying.

Not in the broad sense of "hey, anything goes...shoot heroin...go on a crime spree!"

I mean that if someone is looking for equanimity and peace, and because of their disposition a non-rational sort of practice works better for them than a rational one, then fine.

Out of the set of people who are drawn to contemplative, spiritual, or religious practices, there will be a subset of people with a more rational disposition, and a subset of people with a less rational disposition, and different sorts of avenues/practices reflect that spectrum. As I see it, the benchmark for a spiritual practice is whether it actually helps someone.

I use Insight Timer, which shows me a wide range of people doing all kinds of things -- music meditation, waterfall sounds, chakras, whatever. Many of these are practices I wouldn't undertake myself and some of them I find silly. But if it's helping a particular person with their existential anxieties or providing them with some tranquility, then fine. No one's forcing me to do things that way.


Please read the link I provided in the OP. Critical thinking isn't mere 'cogitation':

It entails the examination of those structures or elements of thought implicit in all reasoning: purpose, problem, or question-at-issue; assumptions; concepts; empirical grounding; reasoning leading to conclusions; implications and consequences; objections from alternative viewpoints; and frame of reference. Critical thinking — in being responsive to variable subject matter, issues, and purposes — is incorporated in a family of interwoven modes of thinking, among them: scientific thinking, mathematical thinking, historical thinking, anthropological thinking, economic thinking, moral thinking, and philosophical thinking.

True...but how much of the above is involved in zazen, for example? I could see how it applies to vipassana.

daverupa
20 Jul 17, 14:01
Some people are fundamentally not very rational and I doubt that exposure to critical thinking will change that.

This is the claim that "educating people does not work". I'm surprised to hear this, and I disagree with it.


I mean that if someone is looking for equanimity and peace, and because of their disposition a non-rational sort of practice works better for them than a rational one, then fine.

You seem to take this position:


Pragmatism is a philosophical movement that includes those who claim that an ideology or proposition is true if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning of a proposition is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it, and that unpractical ideas are to be rejected.

I think you want to claim that critical thinking is, for some, unpractical and therefore to be rejected. I disagree:


They realize that no matter how skilled they are as thinkers, they can always improve their reasoning abilities and they will at times fall prey to mistakes in reasoning, human irrationality, prejudices, biases, distortions, uncritically accepted social rules and taboos, self-interest, and vested interest. They strive to improve the world in whatever ways they can and contribute to a more rational, civilized society. At the same time, they recognize the complexities often inherent in doing so. They avoid thinking simplistically about complicated issues and strive to appropriately consider the rights and needs of relevant others. They recognize the complexities in developing as thinkers, and commit themselves to life-long practice toward self-improvement. They embody the Socratic principle: The unexamined life is not worth living, because they realize that many unexamined lives together result in an uncritical, unjust, dangerous world.

So, I wonder what you think about this (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364661303002250):


Researchers in thinking and reasoning have proposed recently that there are two distinct cognitive systems underlying reasoning. System 1 is old in evolutionary terms and shared with other animals: it comprises a set of autonomous subsystems that include both innate input modules and domain-specific knowledge acquired by a domain-general learning mechanism. System 2 is evolutionarily recent and distinctively human: it permits abstract reasoning and hypothetical thinking, but is constrained by working memory capacity and correlated with measures of general intelligence. These theories essentially posit two minds in one brain with a range of experimental psychological evidence showing that the two systems compete for control of our inferences and actions.

...Theoretical and experimental psychologists need to focus on the interaction of the two systems and the extent to which volitional process in System 2 can be used to inhibit the strong pragmatic tendencies to response in inference and judgment that come from System 1, especially where the latter are known to result in cognitive biases.

You would claim that a cognitive bias is fully suitable & worth sustaining if a person receives a pragmatic, subjective benefit from having that bias. I am stunned at this claim, since it seems prima facie unhealthy & mistaken.

chownah
20 Jul 17, 15:30
This is the claim that "educating people does not work". I'm surprised to hear this, and I disagree with it.

I suppose that in theory anyone could be educated to be able to effectively use critical thinking but piaget and others following seem to have shown that there is a segment of the population which has not developed the ability to think critically even after the end of highschool and later and that there seems to be a strong developmental component in that the emerging of critical thinking is seen to be dependent on a type of natural development (I don't know the specifics of this "development"). Whether these people can be taught critical thinking has been hotly debated in educational circles but I haven't kept up with recent studies. Given the bell curve distribution of pretty much all cognitive skills across the population of humans it seems pretty obvious that one could construct a bell curve of critical thinking skills and that somewhere at the lower end of that curve there should be a cutoff point beyond which formal operations are not possible....so really the debate isn't if there are people unable to exhibit critical thinking but rather how are these people distributed in relation to other human characteristics (other cognitive skills, emotional skills, attention span, memory, etc.)

Another unrelated thought is that it seems that faith is often considered a legitimate component of practice and it certainly does not seem to be a product of critical thinking.

chownah

daverupa
20 Jul 17, 18:18
Whether these people can be taught critical thinking has been hotly debated in educational circles but I haven't kept up with recent studies.

A paper by Willingham (https://static1.squarespace.com/static/505e7a18e4b0a01995610030/t/54cfebe6e4b0c38f7e17b132/1422912486218/Crit_Thinking.pdf) (2007) offers a good discussion of these issues:


In this article, I will describe the nature of critical thinking, explain why it is so hard to do and to teach, and explore how students acquire a specific type of critical thinking: thinking scientifically. Along the way, we’ll see that critical thinking is not a set of skills that can be deployed at any time, in any context. It is a type of thought that even 3-year-olds can engage in—and even trained scientists can fail in. And it is very much dependent on domain knowledge and practice.

...What do all these studies boil down to? First, critical thinking (as well as scientific thinking and other domain-based thinking) is not a skill. There is not a set of critical thinking skills that can be acquired and deployed regardless of context. Second, there are metacognitive strategies that, once learned, make critical thinking more likely. Third, the ability to think critically (to actually do what the metacognitive strategies call for) depends on domain knowledge and practice. For teachers, the situation is not hopeless, but no one should underestimate the difficulty of teaching students to think critically.

So, we could say that critical thinking as it relates to contemplative practice calls for a domain-specific deployment of critical thought... but a deployment nonetheless.

EDIT:

Here is another essay on critical thinking & whether it's domain-specific or not: Critical Thinking in Every Domain of Knowledge and Belief (http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/critical-thinking-in-every-domain-of-knowledge-and-belief/698)


Let me give you a logical parallel: Suppose I claimed to teach carpentry and explained how I did it as follows: "Yes, I do teach carpentry. I emphasize the hammer." Or, "Yes, I do. I focus on the skillsaw." Critical thinking is not one isolated skill. It is not even a random list of skills. It's an orchestrated way of thinking that enables you to decompose your thinking at any moment. It encompasses basic structures integrated together into a whole. It assess thinking for its quality, for its clarity, for its accuracy, for its precision, for its relevance. It raises thinking thereby to a higher quality. It makes it better. Critical thinking is a way of teaching, a way of learning, a way of being in the world in which the thinker self-monitors and self-assesses.


It's basically both domain-specific & domain-general: there are core skills, and these are applied to various domains of knowledge in various ways suitable to a given context. But, they are to be applied.

Aloka
21 Jul 17, 05:21
Here's a 5 minute "QualiaSoup" video about criticial thinking:




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OLPL5p0fMg


.

Aloka
21 Jul 17, 05:54
....and I thought I'd add a reflection from Ajahn Sumedho in Chapter 3 "Intuitive Awareness" of his book "The Sound of Silence":





In contemplating right understanding (sammā-diṭṭhi) I like to emphasize seeing it as an intuitive understanding and not a conceptual one. I have found it very helpful just contemplating the difference between analytical thinking and intuitive awareness, because there is a huge difference between the use of the mind to think, to analyze, reason, criticize, to have ideas, perceptions, views and opinions, and intuitive awareness, which is non-critical. Intuitive awareness is an inclusive awareness. It’s not that it doesn’t allow criticism; rather, it sees the critical mind as an object.

The critical mind is the tendency to criticize or compare, to hold one view that this is better than that, or this is right and that is wrong, to criticize yourself or others or whatever – all of which can be justified and valid on that level. We’re not interested in just developing our critical faculty, because usually in countries like this it’s highly developed already, but to trust in intuitive awareness (sati-sampajañña).

Sampajañña is often translated as ‘clear comprehension,’ which is so vague and, even though it says ‘clear,’ it doesn’t give me a sense of the broadness of that clarity. When you have clear definitions of everything, then you think you have clear comprehension. That’s why we don’t like confusion, isn’t it? We don’t like to feel foggy, confused,or uncertain. These kinds of states we really dislike, but we spend a lot of time trying to have clear comprehension and certainty.

But sati-sampajañña includes fogginess, includes confusion, includes uncertainty and insecurity. It’s a clear comprehension or the apperception of confusion – recognizing it’s like this. Uncertainty and insecurity are like this. So it’s a clear comprehension or apprehension of even the most vague, amorphous, or nebulous mental conditions.

Some people find this approach frustrating because it’s easier to be told exactly what to do, to have a more methodical approach. But many of us have done that, and even though it can be very skilful, it can also become addictive. We never get to the root of the cause, which is ‘I am this person that needs something in order to become enlightened.’


Continues at the link:

http://cdn.amaravati.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Ajahn-Sumedho-Volume-4-The-Sound-of-Silence.pdf




:hands:

daverupa
21 Jul 17, 13:45
Let me offer some clarification: I am NOT suggesting critical thinking be used as a contemplative practice, nor am I even suggesting that it necessarily be used during practice. I am suggesting that critical thinking with respect to contemplative practice(s) has its proper place in the following areas:

1. While researching & learning about, and before commitment to, a doctrine.
2. While researching & learning about, and before commitment to, a practice.
3. When making comparisons between doctrines & practices.
4. When interpreting, making inferences from, and drawing conclusions about contemplative experiences.

And so on. Cognitive dissonance, comfirmation bias, appeals to authority... many problematic issues remain unaddressed when critical thinking is left unengaged.

Lazy Eye
21 Jul 17, 14:03
This is the claim that "educating people does not work". I'm surprised to hear this, and I disagree with it.

No, it's the claim that mileage may vary (based on aptitude, learning style, willingness to learn, and so on). I certainly would not make a broad claim that "educating people does not work." Neither would I claim that it works for all people, in the same way, all of the time.


You would claim that a cognitive bias is fully suitable & worth sustaining if a person receives a pragmatic, subjective benefit from having that bias. I am stunned at this claim, since it seems prima facie unhealthy & mistaken.

Not in reference to a "subjective benefit," but rather in reference to a value or good, e.g. attaining tranquility of mind and freedom from stress, or developing qualities such as equanimity and compassion.

Let's say the goal of a spiritual practice is to develop compassion, and that indeed someone becomes more compassionate as a result of the practice. Then I think we would have to say that the practice has value, even if it is non-rational in nature. Of course, a practice that fosters compassion AND is rational in nature would be even better!

That said, there might be cases and contexts in which cognitive bias is defensible with respect to a subjective benefit, such as personal health or survival. Consider the case of a patient who has an illness or condition with low survival chances. It's possible that the patient will exhibit a cognitive bias favoring his or her chances of survival (I'm going to fight this disease!). That bias might in fact aid in survival. And even if it doesn't, it may have a palliative benefit. I'm not prepared to extrapolate a larger claim based on this example; it's just an observation for possible consideration. In any case, "subjective benefits" of various kinds have to be assessed in terms of some kind of value system: i.e., do we agree this or that benefit is legitimate?


I think you want to claim that critical thinking is, for some, unpractical and therefore to be rejected.

I don't say that critical thinking should ever be rejected. It should be promoted and encouraged. However, the possibility exists that some non-rational activities and practices could be valuable. These might include religious or contemplative practices. They might also include things like theater, art, poetry, or music. The catharisis function of theater, for instance, is not really rational in nature.


So, I wonder what you think about this:

Researchers in thinking and reasoning have proposed recently that there are two distinct cognitive systems underlying reasoning. System 1 is old in evolutionary terms and shared with other animals: it comprises a set of autonomous subsystems that include both innate input modules and domain-specific knowledge acquired by a domain-general learning mechanism. System 2 is evolutionarily recent and distinctively human: it permits abstract reasoning and hypothetical thinking, but is constrained by working memory capacity and correlated with measures of general intelligence. These theories essentially posit two minds in one brain with a range of experimental psychological evidence showing that the two systems compete for control of our inferences and actions.

...Theoretical and experimental psychologists need to focus on the interaction of the two systems and the extent to which volitional process in System 2 can be used to inhibit the strong pragmatic tendencies to response in inference and judgment that come from System 1, especially where the latter are known to result in cognitive biases.

I agree this is a desirable area for research. My personal opinion (as of now) is that "System 1" can be managed or tamed, but that cognitive bias will persist to a greater or lesser degree among most humans. For cognitive bias to be completely removed, the human species would probably have to be replaced by AI -- something with more accurate algorithms.

Lazy Eye
21 Jul 17, 14:16
Let me offer some clarification: I am NOT suggesting critical thinking be used as a contemplative practice, nor am I even suggesting that it necessarily be used during practice. I am suggesting that critical thinking with respect to contemplative practice(s) has its proper place in the following areas:

1. While researching & learning about, and before commitment to, a doctrine.
2. While researching & learning about, and before commitment to, a practice.
3. When making comparisons between doctrines & practices.
4. When interpreting, making inferences from, and drawing conclusions about contemplative experiences.

And so on. Cognitive dissonance, comfirmation bias, appeals to authority... many problematic issues remain unaddressed when critical thinking is left unengaged.

I agree with all of this, by the way. The points we are debating are caveats, AFAIC.

daverupa
21 Jul 17, 15:36
No, it's the claim that mileage may vary... Neither would I claim that it works for all people, in the same way, all of the time.

You had said:


Some people are fundamentally not very rational and I doubt that exposure to critical thinking will change that.

This means "I doubt that education will change that."

But do you claim that some people cannot learn critical thinking? It seems that you suspect this could be true, but I think the strongest reasonable claim would make reference to the fact that (1) it's hard to learn & teach, so a given person might learn it slowly and/or a given instructor might teach it poorly, (2) to incorporate it into ones life takes various lengths of time, etc. But none of this argues against its comprehensive usefulness, it only points out that 'mileage may vary' with respect to learning it, which seems obvious.


...In any case, "subjective benefits" of various kinds have to be assessed in terms of some kind of value system: i.e., do we agree that this or that benefit is legitimate?

Hopefully by using critical thinking. For example: How is a given value system chosen? How can different ones be compared? What are the pros & cons of different value systems? What role does biology & evolution play? How does culture and society affect these issues? How do ethics & morality interface with these value systems? Are the value systems in a given individual consistent or in contradiction?

And so forth.


However, the possibility exists that some non-rational activities and practices could be beneficial.

We'd need to assess the non-rational activity in terms of the chosen value system in order to properly assess 'benefit': Is sin reduced? Is kamma being addressed? Is one properly knitting together the sefirot? Is one properly approaching sublimation into the Tao? All such rationales, mechanisms, & results are subject to critical examination. Non-rational decisions can be irrational too, and it takes critical thinking to find out.


The catharisis function of theater, for instance, is not really rational in nature.

It isn't irrational in nature, either. It's an experience: to say anything reasonable about why it happens or how it works or what it means requires good reasons based on critical thought. Otherwise one simply collects anecdotes uncritically, giving e.g. confirmation bias et al an opportunity to have an effect.

And finally, you keep stressing the impossibility of removing all cognitive mistakes - but that's not the point at all. It's a worthwhile pursuit for its many benefits & its avoidance of many dangers, as I've quoted & discussed above. Even if its perfection remains beyond our grasp, it still ought to be repeatedly applied to the contemplative enterprise.

chownah
22 Jul 17, 04:19
It's an experience: to say anything reasonable about why it happens or how it works or what it means requires good reasons based on critical thought.

First I want to clearly state that critical thinking is to be taught and encouraged everywhere and to everyone regardless of whether one can master it or just learn a bit of it. A huge amount of suffering is avoided when people use critical thinking.

So.....it seems to me that to say anything reasonable about why it happens (an experience) or how it works or what it means is the same thing as saying "to have a reasonable view about......"....or...it means "to have a position......". I think that the buddha teaches that views and positions are to be abandoned. I think that the buddha sometimes expresses this absence of view or position by using the terms "just so", "such", or "thus". I think that this demonstrates that there is a limit or threshold beyond which critical thinking should be dropped. Perhaps, maybe, it might be that critical thinking is the best tool for establishing when critical thinking is not being used and should be used and the best tool for establishing when critical thinking is to be abandoned.
chownah

daverupa
23 Jul 17, 04:04
I think that the buddha teaches...

We could have a discussion of DN 1 and other such Suttas as might apply, but to do that we would have already committed to them as being authoritative. That's downstream from the topic of whether critical thinking has a role to play, such as with 1-4, above.


I think that this demonstrates that there is a limit or threshold beyond which critical thinking should be dropped.

Can you unpack this? I'd like to see good reasons to conclude that sometimes we don't need good reasons... it seems odd...

chownah
23 Jul 17, 06:46
We could have a discussion of DN 1 and other such Suttas as might apply, but to do that we would have already committed to them as being authoritative. That's downstream from the topic of whether critical thinking has a role to play, such as with 1-4, above.

After your mention of 1-4 above you added "And so on."...and in an earlier reply you gave the link: http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/critical-thinking-in-every-domain-of-knowledge-and-belief/698 (Critical Thinking in Every Domain of Knowledge and Belief)
. I think if you want to say that critical thinking has a domain where you wish to discuss its applicability then perhaps you should suggest something less open ended than what these elements of your previous posts suggest.


Can you unpack this? I'd like to see good reasons to conclude that sometimes we don't need good reasons... it seems odd...
As I indicated, the buddha seems to be suggesting that there are times when analysis or critical thinking are not productive....so....if we look at a time line where at one point in time critical thinking IS productive and at another point in time where critical thinking IS NOT productive then I think it is a fair assumption that somewhere between those two points there is a point where critical thinking loses its productiveness....and in my view it actually becomes counterproductive.

chownah

daverupa
23 Jul 17, 14:00
I think if you want to say that critical thinking has a domain where you wish to discuss its applicability then perhaps you should suggest something less open ended than what these elements of your previous posts suggest.

The possibility of its broader applicability is indeed something I've mentioned, but in terms of contemplative practice I suggested this: "So, we could say that critical thinking as it relates to contemplative practice calls for a domain-specific deployment of critical thought... but a deployment nonetheless."


...there are times when analysis or critical thinking are not productive...

What's this mean, "productive"? Define that in terms of the value system you're using, and I'll step back and ask if critical thinking contributed to that choice.

For example, I don't think critical thinking applies to the practice of anapanasasti. It ought to have been applied before that was chosen, applied when choosing a source of education, applied while learning the instructions, applied when evaluating results, applied when evaluating its doctrinal context & implications, etc. Critical thinking ought to surround any given contemplative practice in this way, it seems to me.

chownah
23 Jul 17, 14:46
What's this mean, "productive"? Define that in terms of the value system you're using, and I'll step back and ask if critical thinking contributed to that choice.

For example, I don't think critical thinking applies to the practice of anapanasasti. It ought to have been applied before that was chosen, applied when choosing a source of education, applied while learning the instructions, applied when evaluating results, applied when evaluating its doctrinal context & implications, etc. Critical thinking ought to surround any given contemplative practice in this way, it seems to me.
By "productive" I mean produces the desired outcome.

Your anapanasasti example can be used to illustrate what I meant in my previous post. There is a moment in time when one is evaluating it and that would be a time when critical thinking IS productive....and then there is a moment in time when there is the actual practice of it and critical thinking IS NOT productive and will actually be counter productive (to the intended result)....and it seems like there would then be a time somewhere between the two where critical thinking becomes inappropriate (not productive)(of the intended result). So, I guess one of the best uses of critical thinking is to know when it will be productive and when it will be not productive (of the intended result).

Also, it seems like I remember a description of the jhanas that said that there was "discursive thought" in the first jhana but that is gets dropped as one progresses. I guess this "discursive thought" might by your "critical thinking" but I don't know for sure.

chownah

daverupa
23 Jul 17, 15:30
....and it seems like there would then be a time somewhere between the two where critical thinking becomes inappropriate (not productive)(of the intended result).

Could be; Zen folk, Meister Eckhart, all sorts of contemplative folk talk about such things. But the choices made about how to frame problems, their solutions, and the method(s) to accomplish that - all aspects of pre- & post-practice are cases where critical thought should be brought to bear.

daverupa
23 Jul 17, 15:51
What if we sum things up in this way: "A given practice may lack critical thought in and of itself, but ongoing critical thinking about a given practice is essential."

chownah
24 Jul 17, 05:20
What if we sum things up in this way: "A given practice may lack critical thought in and of itself, but ongoing critical thinking about a given practice is essential."

That sounds pretty good to me. For me it sort of sounds like "a practice" is a thing which is delimited by something...that it has a self sort of. To me it sort of sounds like when you say "A given practice" it is like you can pick up this practice, critically think about it, and then put it down....like it is a thing with clear boundaries. I like to think of practice (note: I don't say "a" practice or "the" practice.) as being an open ended sort of concept which ideally can merge with our every action to one degree or another rather than to mark it off as something seperate from other experiences which I guess then that those experiences would be considered to not be practice. I think the buddha taught that we should practice (through mindfulness perhaps?) in all of our activities....stepping forward, stepping backward, eating, defecating, etc. For me it sounds like what you are saying tends to obscure this idea....an idea which is important for my practice.

As a counter summing up I offer that whenever analytic thought should be engaged then critical thinking should be used....and that critical thinking has at least one major task to accomplish which is to discern when critical thinking is useful and when it is not useful (for accomplishing the intended task).

I'm really interested in any discussion about whether "discursive thought" as it is mentioned with respect to the jhanas and whether "discernment" as mentioned in many places are slots that can be usefully filled with "critical thinking".

chownah

daverupa
24 Jul 17, 14:28
I think the buddha taught that we should practice (through mindfulness perhaps?) in all of our activities...

Not just the Buddha, as it happens. Contemplative practices tend always to be discussed in terms of ultimately having them apply at all times, such as with unceasing prayer. This kind of goal is framed in many, many ways throughout contemplative traditions. You can find mindfulness, clear comprehension, avoidance of sensuality, all sorts of things like this. (Jhana descriptions & formless attainment descriptions, as well.)


For me it sort of sounds like "a practice" is a thing which is delimited by something...that it has a self sort of.

It's just perception, chownah. There is no self, nothing is permanent, AND a chair is a chair & not a dog.


To me it sort of sounds like when you say "A given practice" it is like you can pick up this practice, critically think about it, and then put it down....like it is a thing with clear boundaries.

Obviously: I picked up, examined, & set down all sorts of monotheism practices, for example.

Now, let's say someone critically thinks about a practice, critically picks it up, simply practices it, critically examines results, critically examines integrative consistency, critically examines ABC, then either critically sets it down for a short or long period or continues to critically hold it, simply practice it, critically examine results, etc.

Isn't this a suitable approach?


...critical thinking has at least one major task to accomplish which is to discern when critical thinking is useful and when it is not useful (for accomplishing the intended task).

You've said this before, but I don't see a good reason to agree. To me, it is as if you said: "mindfulness has at least one major task to accomplish which is to discern when mindfulness is useful and when it is not useful". Unless actually impossible (sleep, jhana), critical thinking & mindfulness both present constant benefits...


I'm really interested in any discussion about whether "discursive thought" as it is mentioned with respect to the jhanas and whether "discernment" as mentioned in many places are slots that can be usefully filled with "critical thinking".

...but it seems like you would conclude that for some advanced practitioners critical thinking has no benefit at all, perhaps even being a barrier. I'll agree it has no scope for application within certain periodic practices - anapanasati & jhana, for example - but setting these aside , when/how exactly do you think that critical thought is a problem for advanced practitioners? Maybe you think that mindfulness & critical thinking are somehow opposed?

Do you claim a version of: "eventually a (Buddhist) contemplative, practicing correctly, will attain the result of forevermore ceasing critical thought"?

(EDITS: refined phrasing)

chownah
24 Jul 17, 15:17
Not just the Buddha, as it happens. Contemplative practices tend always to be discussed in terms of ultimately having it apply at all times, such as with unceasing prayer.
I guess....but that is not what I am saying. I said this
I think the buddha taught that we should practice (through mindfulness perhaps?) in all of our activities...
This is saying we should include all of our activities as being practice or to extend our practice into all of our activities and I am suggesting that mindfulness is something which can be seen as possibly an element of practice which might be extended to or seen in all of our activities. I did not intend it to imply that unceasing prayer is what I have been promoting....although unceasing prayer is ok with me for those who want to engage in it....or who are able to engage in it.....but it is not what I am talking about.

Some practicioners think of their practice as being like "now I am going to practice so I will sit on the cushion and do anapanasati for 30 minutes and during that 30 minutes I will try to not engage in critical thinking"...I guess. Those people might be of a mind that when they are not sitting for 30 minutes and doing anpansati that they will be using critical thinking....I guess. You have said that when they are doing anapanasati that critical thinking is not the way to go I think (can't remember exactly your wording) and I agree.....and also I am saying that it is through critical thinking that they know that when they are sitting doing anapanasati that it is time to not do critical thinking.

Some practicioners think of their practice like "I find that a medative state can be achieved not only when sitting but also sometimes when walking around and doing my daily chores etc. It seems that while doing some of my daily chores I can for moments suspend analytical thought and I find this to reduce stress both mentally and physicaly. I would like to extend this type of practice further into my daily activities and one way to facilitate this is to know when and how to suspend analytical thought processes (any analytical thought processes whether they be critical or not) and a useful tool in finding out how and when to do this is critical thinking."

When I read what your post I think of the first scenario. What I am trying to describe is the second scenario.
chownah

daverupa
24 Jul 17, 16:57
I guess....but that is not what I am saying.

Well, yes it is. Let me demonstrate:


1. I think the buddha taught that we should practice (through mindfulness perhaps?) in all of our activities....stepping forward, stepping backward, eating, defecating, etc.

2. I think the desert fathers taught that we should practice (through unceasing prayer perhaps?) in all of our activities....stepping forward, stepping backward, eating, defecating, etc.

3. I think that <practice authority> taught that we should practice (through <the practice> perhaps?) in all of our activities....stepping forward, stepping backward, eating, defecating, etc.

This framework is very common in contemplative traditions, that the practice is supposed to permeate all activities.


...and a useful tool in finding out how and when to do this is critical thinking."

I agree (though I'd say it was essential instead of just useful & that it applies to the "why" as well), and this is in fact a succinct response to the OP. We seem to agree that critical thinking has a place in the contemplative enterprise. I think we simply disagree about phrasing; I don't see much of a difference between those two scenarios, because in each case critical thinking is brought to bear.

chownah
25 Jul 17, 03:28
Well, yes it is. Let me demonstrate:

1. I think the buddha taught that we should practice (through mindfulness perhaps?) in all of our activities....stepping forward, stepping backward, eating, defecating, etc.

2. I think the desert fathers taught that we should practice (through unceasing prayer perhaps?) in all of our activities....stepping forward, stepping backward, eating, defecating, etc.

3. I think that <practice authority> taught that we should practice (through <the practice> perhaps?) in all of our activities....stepping forward, stepping backward, eating, defecating, etc.

This framework is very common in contemplative traditions, that the practice is supposed to permeate all activities.


...and a useful tool in finding out how and when to do this is critical thinking."

I agree (though I'd say it was essential instead of just useful & that it applies to the "why" as well), and this is in fact a succinct response to the OP. We seem to agree that critical thinking has a place in the contemplative enterprise. I think we simply disagree about phrasing; I don't see much of a difference between those two scenarios, because in each case critical thinking is brought to bear.
It is a common framework but that is not what I am talking about. I am not saying that practice is supposed to permeate all activities or not. I leave that up to the individual practicioner. What I am saying is that some people find through direct experience that it seems that while doing some of their daily chores they can for moments suspend analytical thought and they find this to reduce stress both mentally and physically." It is more of a practical consideration than an urge to meet or achieve some goal. Some people view this approach as one which deals with what can immediatly be seen and experienced on the path and leaves those goals as some far off distant ideal or perhaps as a distant eventuality. Other people may have views other than this.

I think that there is alot of agreement between us and that there is a difference in phrasing but I think there might be differences other than phrasing.

I'm still hoping for some discussion (perhaps by others too) about the relationship between discernment or discursive thought and critical thinking.....and also about the relationship between critical thinking and analytical thought in general or thought in general.
chownah

daverupa
25 Jul 17, 10:15
...a practical consideration...

So, as I understand you now, you're talking about this consideration as being free of critical thought, yes?


I'm still hoping for some discussion

Go ahead.

chownah
25 Jul 17, 10:54
So, as I understand you now, you're talking about this consideration as being free of critical thought, yes?


I suppose it might be free of critical thought or it might be full of critical thought. I suppose that different people use different methods for making their considerations. The point I'm trying to make is not about the practical consideration. I mentioned practical consideration as a way to show that the process (as I am presenting it in my example) is not wanting to achieve some goal laid out by some guru....which is what it seems you thought I was talking about. My point is in explanation of the second of the two scenarios I gave....the two scenarios which you said that didn't find much difference between them. Also, my point is to show what you asked for when you said:

I'll agree it has no scope for application within certain periodic practices - anapanasati & jhana, for example - but setting these aside , when/how exactly do you think that critical thought is a problem for advanced practitioners?
For the people who practice like I suggest in the second scenario critical thought can be a problem if it keeps intruding on the mental calm while doing (for example) daily chores which is the intended outcome of that part of their practice.

Your questions make me think that our differences are not limited to phrasing....but that's not a problem.
chownah

daverupa
25 Jul 17, 17:43
Also, my point is to show what you asked for when you said:

Ah! So, you suggest that critical thinking can sometimes need to be set aside, because analytical thinking sometimes needs to be set aside, because even moderate cognition sometimes needs to be set aside, during practice. Yes?

chownah
26 Jul 17, 03:46
Yes.

chownah

daverupa
26 Jul 17, 04:40
Well, that's what I'd thought.

I've never said that critical thinking should be constant, ongoing - it isn't a practice, I said. It's a tool for thinking, a shape of thinking for use at all times that thinking happens, and not for use when thinking is not happening.

A while ago, I said this:


Now, let's say someone critically thinks about a practice, critically picks it up, simply practices it, critically examines results, critically examines integrative consistency, critically examines ABC, then either critically sets it down for a short or long period or continues to critically hold it, simply practice it, critically examine results, etc.

This is what you and I are both describing.

chownah
28 Jul 17, 02:48
Well, that's what I'd thought.

I've never said that critical thinking should be constant, ongoing - it isn't a practice, I said. It's a tool for thinking, a shape of thinking for use at all times that thinking happens, and not for use when thinking is not happening.

A while ago, I said this:

Now, let's say someone critically thinks about a practice, critically picks it up, simply practices it, critically examines results, critically examines integrative consistency, critically examines ABC, then either critically sets it down for a short or long period or continues to critically hold it, simply practice it, critically examine results, etc.


This is what you and I are both describing.

When I look at your quote I see that we both agree that (to use your words and concepts) that there are times to "simply practice" and that critical thought is not useful during those times of "simple practice". I thought that we established that well before your original presentation of the quote you bring here....way back when you mentioned anapanasati. But the way I understand (or perhaps misunderstand) your posts makes me not so sure. For example immediately after you posted the excerpt you brought here you posted:

Unless actually impossible (sleep, jhana), critical thinking & mindfulness both present constant benefits...
This sort of indicates that one should engage in critical thinking at all times whenever it is possible. To use my words and concepts there are times (when doing chores for example) when critical thought is possible but undesireable. I think that there is a big difference here between your ideas and mine if I am to take your "unless actually impossible" to mean just that.

chownah

daverupa
28 Jul 17, 10:08
This sort of indicates that one should engage in critical thinking at all times whenever it is possible. To use my words and concepts there are times (when doing chores for example) when critical thought is possible but undesireable.

If thinking is possible, critical thinking is possible & should be used. If thinking isn't possible, critical thinking isn't possible. If thinking is possible, but a practice (critically examined, ongoing critical assessment) calls for no thinking, then go ahead and engage the practice in that way, opting to cease thinking & thus the possibility of critical thinking.

I'm sorry one line of a sentence long ago has caused this trouble. I had thought there was much clarification in the meantime, but I can't write very well these days. So, I'll let you have your difference of opinion, and I will continue to think there isn't one.

:peace:

chownah
29 Jul 17, 03:21
I'm sorry one line of a sentence long ago has caused this trouble.

I'm sorry that you find the discussion troubling. I will take a different tack in the hopes that it is not so.

If I am remembering something like "where are my keys?...let me think...." does it require critical thinking for the desired outcome.

chownah

daverupa
29 Jul 17, 13:40
"where are my keys?...let me think...." does it require critical thinking for the desired outcome.

Require? No. Does it help? Yes. Weigh evidence, and maybe head to a single location with a strong likelihood of the keys being there.

Or you know, wander around, maybe checking the same spot more than once, etc.

Aloka
29 Jul 17, 13:49
If I am remembering something like "where are my keys?...let me think...." does it require critical thinking for the desired outcome.


Require? No. Does it help? Yes. Weigh evidence, and maybe head to a single location with a strong likelihood of the keys being there.

Or you know, wander around, maybe checking the same spot more than once, etc.


I sometimes forget where I've put something when I've been multitasking in a hurry - and it definately requires some reasoned thinking in order to track down whatever it is. Lol!

:bunny:

chownah
30 Jul 17, 02:55
I sometimes forget where I've put something when I've been multitasking in a hurry - and it definately requires some reasoned thinking in order to track down whatever it is. Lol!

:bunny:

I know what you mean. In some cases reasoned thinking is useful for this. In other cases (at least for me) I just clear my mind and the answer appears almost instantly.....no time for reasoned thinking in those cases so I assume that reasoned thinking was not part of the process and not necessary and that if I had consciously tried to apply reasoned thinking it would have slowed down the process and been to at least a small degree counterproductive.

Have you had experiences like that?

chownah

Aloka
30 Jul 17, 07:46
I know what you mean. In some cases reasoned thinking is useful for this. In other cases (at least for me) I just clear my mind and the answer appears almost instantly.....no time for reasoned thinking in those cases so I assume that reasoned thinking was not part of the process and not necessary and that if I had consciously tried to apply reasoned thinking it would have slowed down the process and been to at least a small degree counterproductive.

Have you had experiences like that?

chownah



Ummm....but if the answer appears almost instantly, then surely you didn't really forget in the first place?

:dunce:

chownah
30 Jul 17, 09:04
Ummm....but if the answer appears almost instantly, then surely you didn't really forget in the first place?

:dunce:

You reach in the pocket where you always keep your keys and they are not there so you think.."my keys are not there....where are they" and then the answer appears.

A boxer dodges a punch.....no time for reasoning in that.
chownah

daverupa
30 Jul 17, 13:42
A boxer dodges a punch.....no time for reasoning in that.

No time for thinking when you catch yourself slipping on ice, either. With no time for thinking, there's no time for critical thinking - this should be obvious. So, what's the point of this example?


.....no time for reasoned thinking in those cases so I assume that reasoned thinking was not part of the process and not necessary and that if I had consciously tried to apply reasoned thinking it would have slowed down the process and been to at least a small degree counterproductive.

That's too bad, using an assumption as though it were evidence...

chownah
30 Jul 17, 14:11
No time for thinking when you catch yourself slipping on ice, either. With no time for thinking, there's no time for critical thinking - this should be obvious. So, what's the point of this example?



That's too bad, using an assumption as though it were evidence...

It's not too bad. I am not using it as evidence of anything other than to acknowledge that I am using an assumption. I am stating my assumptions so that the discerning reader can see that I am not using it as evidence. You are assuming I was using it as evidence....that's too bad.

The point of the example is to show that there is a thought process which is not critical thinking and which is much better at achieving the desired outcome.
chownah

chownah
30 Jul 17, 15:37
I used to play baseball. I sometimes played the outfield....those are the guys farthest from the player who hits the ball. If the player that hits the ball hits it way up in the air and very far it is the outfielder's job to catch the ball and if possible before it hits the ground. To be able to judge the speed and angle of the ball as it begins its ascent will give the outfielder a first estimate of where the ball will eventually land and keeping a continuous eye on the flight of the ball enables the outfielder to continually update the accuracy of where the ball will come down.

This takes some pretty sophisticated and rapid mental processes I guess but it doesn't take critical thinking.
chownah

daverupa
30 Jul 17, 15:40
You are assuming I was using it as evidence... The point of the example is to show that there is a thought process which is not critical thinking and which is much better at achieving the desired outcome.

But you did use it as evidence. You made an assumption, and then took it all the way to your conclusion, as underlined above. To be consistent, you'd need to say:


The point of the example is to show that I assume there is a thought process which is not critical thinking and which I assume is much better at achieving the desired outcome.

(You did this earlier:



I'm sorry one line of a sentence long ago has caused this trouble.
I'm sorry that you find the discussion troubling.

You assumed that my apology about the phrasing there was a statement about how I felt about the discussion as a whole.)

___


This takes some pretty sophisticated and rapid mental processes I guess but it doesn't take critical thinking.

"Mental processes" =/= "thinking".

The automatic reaction of pulling your hand away from a hot surface doesn't take critical thinking either, but it also engages mental processing. Critical thinking requires thinking in the first place; the fact that you keep coming up with examples to demonstrate human behavior that doesn't involve thinking is odd, because it doesn't apply to the topic at all.

With baseball, there is a natural human athleticism paired with training. This training benefits from critical thinking: training methods are not all the same, and finding out what works best & why is important.

Maybe let's have a quick read:

The inevitable contrast: Conscious vs. unconscious processes in action control (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3767904/)


It is important to consider that, though it is far from trivial to demonstrate unconscious perceptual processing—a controversial phenomenon whose study often requires neuroimaging and sophisticated techniques (e.g., perceptual priming)—even the most cursory examination of action phenomena reveals that, in the nervous system, there is the distinction of processes that are consciously mediated (e.g., voluntary action) and unconsciously mediated (e.g., reflexes, peristalsis, and aspects of motor control).

Critical thinking relates to consciously-mediated processes. You seem to enjoy mentioning unconscious ones, for some reason.

chownah
31 Jul 17, 02:25
I think you are not giving my views much consideration except for how to present a contrarian obfuscation. To me you sound like a propogandist. I think you are clutching at straws.

chownah

Aloka
31 Jul 17, 07:21
I think you are not giving my views much consideration except for how to present a contrarian obfuscation. To me you sound like a propogandist. I think you are clutching at straws.




I wonder if this an example of critical thinking, or could it be an example of a sudden outburst of annoyance? Let's aim to keep things friendly rather than accusatory.


:peace:

chownah
31 Jul 17, 07:29
Critical thinking is just a list of cognitive skills and concepts which academics (mostly in the field of education) have decided are the things which are useful or necessary for what they consider to be proper thinking. I am not at odds with the idea that there are cognitive skills or concepts (or whatever words one wants to use to describe these things) which are valuable for understanding the complex world we live in....and which a large portion of the population are lacking and lacking to the point of it being detrimental both for society and for their own growth.

People promoting critical thinking just take any concept which they think is beneficial and put it on the list. Critical thinking is just a list.

Academics have been trying to teach critical thinking for about 30 or 40 years. One would think that since these academics have found the "right" way to think that they would be able to think the "right" way and their efforts to raise a generation of critical thinkers would have born fruit. If you think this then your thinking would be wrong. The efforts to teach critical thinking is one of the educational endeavors in the usa which has pretty much not made much of an impact on the population to which it has been exposed.....it is by most accounts a failure.

This does not diminish the importance of the things on that list which is called "critical thinking". Those skills and attributes are worth learning about and teaching.....but there is something not right about how this is being presented and promoted. The political scene in the usa is all the proof I need.

Maybe instead of pulling the wagons into a circle and defending the ultimate and all encompassing rightness of critical think it would be better if people admitted that it seems that there is something inadequate about the approach being taken in trying to impove our reasoning skills.

I think the focus should be more on the lines of getting people to learn thinking about thinking instead of some sort of idea that some experts have decided what is the right way to think and then telling you that your thinking is defective and needs to be replaced with the right way......like the song goes "we don't need no education.....we don't need no thought control".....

chownah

chownah
31 Jul 17, 07:48
I wonder if this an example of critical thinking, or could it be an example of a sudden outburst of annoyance? Let's aim to keep things friendly rather than accusatory.


:peace:

It is my considered opinion developed over many posts and not a sudden anything. If you would like me to make comments on what things I considered in making my opinion I could mention some of them but really I don't think you would view that as moving towards keeping things friendly although I would not offer it as a way to be unfriendly just as I have not offered anything at this forum as a way to be unfriendly. Also, I hope that it was clear that I was giving my impressions and not accusing daverupa of anything.

I have shown that there are useful cognitive skills which are not part of the list of skills which is called "critical thinking". Being able to predict the trajectory of a thrown object is one for example. I only mention the ones which are so obvoius that even someone not able to see beyond "critical thinking" might be able to see them.
chownah

Aloka
31 Jul 17, 08:06
I have not offered anything at this forum as a way to be unfriendly. Also, I hope that it was clear that I was giving my impressions and not accusing daverupa of anything.

No I didn't think you had, chownah. I just made those comments because things seemed to be getting a bit stagnant.

Personally, as this is the Independent Buddhist forum on the website and not the Tea Room, I'm more interested in if and why others might think its necessary to apply critical thinking to the various "Buddhisms" that we have in the modern world - and their many teachings and practices.


:hands:

daverupa
31 Jul 17, 10:06
I think you are not giving my views much consideration except for how to present a contrarian obfuscation. To me you sound like a propogandist. I think you are clutching at straws.

Okay. Take care.

chownah
31 Jul 17, 14:51
Quote Originally Posted by chownah View Post

You are assuming I was using it as evidence... The point of the example is to show that there is a thought process which is not critical thinking and which is much better at achieving the desired outcome.But you did use it as evidence. You made an assumption, and then took it all the way to your conclusion, as underlined above. To be consistent, you'd need to say:


The point of the example is to show that I assume there is a thought process which is not critical thinking and which I assume is much better at achieving the desired outcome.

(You did this earlier:

Quote Originally Posted by chownah View Post

Quote Originally Posted by daverupa

I'm sorry one line of a sentence long ago has caused this trouble.

I'm sorry that you find the discussion troubling.


You assumed that my apology about the phrasing there was a statement about how I felt about the discussion as a whole.)


You seem to have it in for assumptions. When I stated the point of my example it was in direct response to your question:

Quote Originally Posted by daverupa View Post

No time for thinking when you catch yourself slipping on ice, either. With no time for thinking, there's no time for critical thinking - this should be obvious. So, what's the point of this example?


I did not feel it necessary to restate any of the assumptions I made in the process of making the point....I just did what you asked and explained what the point was. You seem to think that this is the conclusion when actually it is just a statement explaining what I was trying to show...which is what you requested.

Furthermore, about assumptions.
You seem to have it in for assumptions which in fact assumptions are unavoidable for everyone you included and to be uselessly discussing assumptions which are admitted and declared outright as a matter of truth and honesty in a discussion without any discussion of the meaning or usefulness or any other aspect of that assumption is a wasteful distraction. You have assumptions hanging out all over and you don't even state them (I wonder if you realize that you have them) and if I addressed each of them the way you did my openly admitted assumption this thread would be nothing but a discussion of assumptions.

There is a cosmology somewhere that says that the earth rides on the back of a turtle and when an adherant of this cosmology was asked what did the turtle ride on she said a turtle and when asked about what that turtle rode on she thought for a moment and said "it is turtles all the way down." Your belief in this critical thinking thingy is riding on an assumption and it is assumptions all the way down.

Assumptions can not be avoided...our existence is built on them. Assumptions play a very important role in reasoning. When we can not have complete certainty (read this as meaning "all the time") then we must construct an assumption. We do this in a mundane way every day and all the time....walk on the sidewalk and assume that a car will not climb the curb and kill you.....but it plays a much more interesting role in the cognitive process of synthesis.....and especially in the synthetic process use in creative thinking. You choose an assumption (or several) and see where they lead......then change some of the assumptions and see how the outcome varies. In these situations making assumptions is not only beneficial, it is necessary. Picking good assumptions is an art. Picking the right assumption can not only reduce the time to reach a path forward it can also help to find the best path forward...and perhaps even more importantly picking an assumption to evaluate can even lead to totally unexpected results (read this as "how many important discoveries were made").

Picking good assumptions is an important cognitive skill....but how is it done? Fact is that all those critical thinkers are pretty much stumped about this one. Although some have some theories about this (I know next to nothing about these theories but I hear that they exist) there has to my knowledge never been a stuation that I know of where anyone was pedagogically taught how to choose good assumptions. This topic is as far as I know a complete "critical thinking fail".

chownah

binocular
31 Jul 17, 18:33
Without constraining responses by using a poll, I want to ask:

1. To what extent is critical thinking an essential component of contemplative practice? (Here is a definition (http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766) & discussion of that term) What, if anything, is as important - or even more important - than critical thinking with respect to examining contemplative claims & practices?
Liking the practice, the people, feeling good about it, having a sense "This could really work out well," hope, enthusiasm. That visceral feel-good feeling (or the lack thereof) inside trumps everything else.


Lazy Eye, why do you think that it's defensible to reject the use of critical thinking in order to accept a conclusion based solely on personal preferences?
Because it is personal preferences that really matter to the person and which are the only things that the person can stand for, vouch for.

I think you gravely underestimate the role of the personal, the subjective.


Let me offer some clarification: I am NOT suggesting critical thinking be used as a contemplative practice, nor am I even suggesting that it necessarily be used during practice. I am suggesting that critical thinking with respect to contemplative practice(s) has its proper place in the following areas:

1. While researching & learning about, and before commitment to, a doctrine.
2. While researching & learning about, and before commitment to, a practice.
3. When making comparisons between doctrines & practices.
4. When interpreting, making inferences from, and drawing conclusions about contemplative experiences.

And so on. Cognitive dissonance, comfirmation bias, appeals to authority... many problematic issues remain unaddressed when critical thinking is left unengaged.
Critical thinking cannot solve the problems that a person might have with a particular religion/doctrine.
This is because critical thinking is anchored in a secular, humanist, presumably egalitarian system of beliefs and values about life, the universe, and everything. A religion is a different type of system.
(It's only the formal logical fallacies that can be said to be universal; the informal ones are relative, context-specific.)



(And you know, let me also ask:
2. Who has/has not taken e.g. college classes in critical thinking, or otherwise engaged in a specific attempt to learn it?)
I took a class on it in college, I have several books about it, have read some.

binocular
31 Jul 17, 18:38
Picking good assumptions is an important cognitive skill....but how is it done? Fact is that all those critical thinkers are pretty much stumped about this one. Although some have some theories about this (I know next to nothing about these theories but I hear that they exist) there has to my knowledge never been a stuation that I know of where anyone was pedagogically taught how to choose good assumptions. This topic is as far as I know a complete "critical thinking fail".
Which brings us back to William James' heuristic for believing, as worked out in his essay Will to believe (https://www.gutenberg.org/files/26659/26659-h/26659-h.htm#P1):


/.../
Let us give the name of hypothesis to anything that may be proposed to our belief; and just as the electricians speak of live and dead wires, let us speak of any hypothesis as either live or dead. A live hypothesis is one which appeals as a real possibility to him to whom it is proposed. If I ask you to believe in the Mahdi, the notion makes no electric connection with your nature,—it refuses to scintillate with any credibility at all. As an hypothesis it is completely dead. To an Arab, however (even if he be not one of the Mahdi's followers), the hypothesis is among the mind's possibilities: it is alive. This shows that deadness and liveness in an hypothesis are not intrinsic properties, but relations to the {3} individual thinker. They are measured by his willingness to act. The maximum of liveness in an hypothesis means willingness to act irrevocably. Practically, that means belief; but there is some believing tendency wherever there is willingness to act at all.

Next, let us call the decision between two hypotheses an option. Options may be of several kinds. They may be—1, living or dead; 2, forced or avoidable; 3, momentous or trivial; and for our purposes we may call an option a genuine option when it is of the forced, living, and momentous kind.

1. A living option is one in which both hypotheses are live ones. If I say to you: "Be a theosophist or be a Mohammedan," it is probably a dead option, because for you neither hypothesis is likely to be alive. But if I say: "Be an agnostic or be a Christian," it is otherwise: trained as you are, each hypothesis makes some appeal, however small, to your belief.

2. Next, if I say to you: "Choose between going out with your umbrella or without it," I do not offer you a genuine option, for it is not forced. You can easily avoid it by not going out at all. Similarly, if I say, "Either love me or hate me," "Either call my theory true or call it false," your option is avoidable. You may remain indifferent to me, neither loving nor hating, and you may decline to offer any judgment as to my theory. But if I say, "Either accept this truth or go without it," I put on you a forced option, for there is no standing place outside of the alternative. Every dilemma based on a complete logical disjunction, with no possibility of not choosing, is an option of this forced kind.
{4}
3. Finally, if I were Dr. Nansen and proposed to you to join my North Pole expedition, your option would be momentous; for this would probably be your only similar opportunity, and your choice now would either exclude you from the North Pole sort of immortality altogether or put at least the chance of it into your hands. He who refuses to embrace a unique opportunity loses the prize as surely as if he tried and failed. Per contra, the option is trivial when the opportunity is not unique, when the stake is insignificant, or when the decision is reversible if it later prove unwise. Such trivial options abound in the scientific life. A chemist finds an hypothesis live enough to spend a year in its verification: he believes in it to that extent. But if his experiments prove inconclusive either way, he is quit for his loss of time, no vital harm being done./.../

Note: An option is a genuine option when it is of the forced, living, and momentous kind. This could mean that when a person is stuck on a question or a decision, what is actually going on is that they are facing a decision that is not genuine for them, not actionable for them; ie. when they are trying to decide about something that is not actually within their power to decide. This could also mean that a way out of this conundrum would be to reformulate the option one seems to be facing into a genuine option.

woodscooter
31 Jul 17, 21:28
I've been following this thread quietly since it started. I've seen some interesting concepts raised and debated.

Even though personally I don't have anything of value to bring to the discussion, I'm glad to see the interactions between contributors have been (mostly) civilised.

What I feel I must say, wearing my moderator's hat, is there seems to be little or no relevance to Buddhism in the latest posts. Back at Pages 1 & 2, maybe 3 as well, there's some talk of applying critical thinking to contemplative practice, with reference to the original post #1.

If this thread is now all about the strengths and limitations of critical thinking itself and isn't refering directly to how it might or might not apply to different aspects of Buddhist study and practice, then it no longer belongs in 'Independent Buddhists' and will be moved to the Tea Room instead.


.

chownah
01 Aug 17, 03:14
I've been following this thread quietly since it started. I've seen some interesting concepts raised and debated.

Even though personally I don't have anything of value to bring to the discussion, I'm glad to see the interactions between contributors have been (mostly) civilised.

What I feel I must say, wearing my moderator's hat, is there seems to be little or no relevance to Buddhism in the latest posts. Back at Pages 1 & 2, maybe 3 as well, there's some talk of applying critical thinking to contemplative practice, with reference to the original post #1.

If this thread is now all about the strengths and limitations of critical thinking itself and isn't refering directly to how it might or might not apply to different aspects of Buddhist study and practice, then it no longer belongs in 'Independent Buddhists' and will be moved to the Tea Room instead.


.
First, I have no opinion on where this thread should be.

In the hopeful event that this discussion should turn towards relevance to buddhism let me explain why I see the discussions of what is critical thinking is important.....it is because I think that if people think that there is one unified method reasoning called "critical thinking" it is almost a certainty that alot of disagreement will occur because I think that there is no unified method of reasoning called "critical thinking" and that critical thinking is just a list of very useful ideas about how reasoning is carried out. In my view a more fruitful discussion can be had by not thinking of "critical thinking" as being a unified method of reasoning and rather to take one or some of the items on the list which is called "critical thinking" and see how those elements relate.

Also, do note that the original post does not mention buddhism and only talks about contemplation. For me personally this was seen as a flag that the OP did not want to talk about elements of buddhism.....so I have avoided it. This may have been a wise ploy on the OP's part in that a headlong dive into "critical thinking vis a vis buddhism" would probably be a mosh pit. In my view it is better to come to grips with "critical thinking" first and then tread into buddhism lightly.
chownah

chownah
01 Aug 17, 05:21
They realize that no matter how skilled they are as thinkers, they can always improve their reasoning abilities and they will at times fall prey to mistakes in reasoning, human irrationality, prejudices, biases, distortions, uncritically accepted social rules and taboos, self-interest, and vested interest. They strive to improve the world in whatever ways they can and contribute to a more rational, civilized society. At the same time, they recognize the complexities often inherent in doing so. They avoid thinking simplistically about complicated issues and strive to appropriately consider the rights and needs of relevant others. They recognize the complexities in developing as thinkers, and commit themselves to life-long practice toward self-improvement. They embody the Socratic principle: The unexamined life is not worth living, because they realize that many unexamined lives together result in an uncritical, unjust, dangerous world.

Can you provide the source for this and perhaps a link?
chownah

Aloka
01 Aug 17, 06:06
I am suggesting that critical thinking with respect to contemplative practice(s) has its proper place in the following areas:

1. While researching & learning about, and before commitment to, a doctrine.
2. While researching & learning about, and before commitment to, a practice.
3. When making comparisons between doctrines & practices.
4. When interpreting, making inferences from, and drawing conclusions about contemplative experiences.



That suggestion sounds fine to me and I'm wondering if after 60 posts maybe the discussion could move forward a little to focus on those points and some examples of the possible use of critical thinking in connection with Buddhism. (or perhaps I should say the various"Buddhisms" we have in the modern world.)

:hands:

chownah
01 Aug 17, 13:21
In post #19 I said:



Quote Originally Posted by daverupa View Post

It's an experience: to say anything reasonable about why it happens or how it works or what it means requires good reasons based on critical thought.First I want to clearly state that critical thinking is to be taught and encouraged everywhere and to everyone regardless of whether one can master it or just learn a bit of it. A huge amount of suffering is avoided when people use critical thinking.

So.....it seems to me that to say anything reasonable about why it happens (an experience) or how it works or what it means is the same thing as saying "to have a reasonable view about......"....or...it means "to have a position......". I think that the buddha teaches that views and positions are to be abandoned. I think that the buddha sometimes expresses this absence of view or position by using the terms "just so", "such", or "thus". I think that this demonstrates that there is a limit or threshold beyond which critical thinking should be dropped. Perhaps, maybe, it might be that critical thinking is the best tool for establishing when critical thinking is not being used and should be used and the best tool for establishing when critical thinking is to be abandoned.
chownah
Which was me trying to move the discussion toward buddhism but I felt it was not appropriate when daverupa replied in post #20:

We could have a discussion of DN 1 and other such Suttas as might apply, but to do that we would have already committed to them as being authoritative. That's downstream from the topic of whether critical thinking has a role to play, such as with 1-4, above.

Certainly not an open invitation to discuss buddhism in the way I take his reply. Seems he wants to dispute taking the suttas as being authoritative even for just the purpose of an academic discussion....I guess....don't know for sure..... Maybe he wants a discussion about someone who has never even considered buddhism and how they should approach it before they accept anything about it at all....I can see how this could be discussed but the discussion would be centered around the thought process and would have little or nothing to do with buddhism as the thought process I think he would recommend are not specific to any sort of "religion" one approaches and would be the same for all of them. I think that the current suggestion to relate this to buddhism is not encouraging a discussion of a generic application of "critical thinking"....
No time to proof read this hope it makes sense.

chownah

Aloka
01 Aug 17, 13:56
Certainly not an open invitation to discuss buddhism in the way I take his reply. Seems he wants to dispute taking the suttas as being authoritative even for just the purpose of an academic discussion....I guess....don't know for sure..... Maybe he wants a discussion about... ..etc


Unfortunately, its uncertain if Dave will be returning to the discussion, chownah. I really hope he does at some point, but in the meantime perhaps other members who haven't posted in it yet might decide to join in with you.

:hands:

chownah
04 Aug 17, 05:41
I think that a good discussion could be had about the place for different ways of thinking when considering what the buddha taught. I think that the way critical thinking has been presented in this thread has put people off. I think that maybe more people would be interested in discussing what scripures seem to give some advise on thinking about thinking. I think that it should be acknowledged that faith has an important place in the buddha's teachings and in our daily lives as well so any ideas which try to banish the role of faith and to describe those who practice through or with faith as being "silly" is....well.....silly.

I am not familiar with any kind of buddhism except for theravada so if a discussion develops I will only be able to speak of buddhism from that perspective.

The Kalama sutta seems to be alikely candidate as a beginning:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.065.than.html

An excerpt:

Of course you are uncertain, Kalamas. Of course you are in doubt. When there are reasons for doubt, uncertainty is born. So in this case, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.'
chownah

Aloka
04 Aug 17, 09:09
I think that it should be acknowledged that faith has an important place in the buddha's teachings and in our daily lives as well so any ideas which try to banish the role of faith and to describe those who practice through or with faith as being "silly" is....well.....silly.

Hi chownah

I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't have faith, but can I ask which particular aspects of the different "Buddhisms" in the modern world do you think we should have faith in?

Please could you also share some examples of how you think one should apply faith in one's daily life?

Finally, if you're talking exclusively about the Pali Canon do you think one needs to interpret literally and have faith in absolutely everything that we read in the suttas?*

(*which were teachings of the historical Buddha from approx. 2,500 years ago, passed on orally by monks after his death for between 4- 500 years, before they were written down on palm leaves)


:hands:

Aloka
04 Aug 17, 14:35
I'm not meaning to be deliberately argumentative, by the way,chownah. I'm just curious to determine whether of not you think there are any aspects of Buddhist teachings and practice which require the application of critical thinking at all.

I'm also keen to see what other members think about it too.


:peace:

chownah
04 Aug 17, 15:21
I'm not meaning to be deliberately argumentative, by the way,chownah. I'm just curious to determine whether of not you think there are any aspects of Buddhist teachings and practice which require the application of critical thinking at all.

I'm also keen to see what other members think about it too.


:peace:
I didn't take your post as being even accidentally argumentative much less deliberately so! I keep coming back and re-reading that post and thinking about how to reply. Your questions bring up alot of stuff and I am taking my time and thinking about the various things I see in relation to your questions. It is late here now and I'm thinking that I will probably post a reply tomorrow but maybe not as I've got a pretty full schedule tomorrow which means that I can not dedicate too much time in writing a reply.

One short comment is that faith in everyday life is something which I view as being pretty much the same as faith in a religious or contemplative setting....sort of a continuum perhaps? Anyway at the far mundane end of the faith continuum would be the faith that is revealed through our assumptions (I talked a bit about assumptions in a previous post). We assume that we can walk on the sidewalk without being run over by a car and similarly we can say that we have faith in the same thing. So, I don't really know but it seems like there is some connection between faith and assumptions. I like looking at it this way because it makes thinking about faith less stressful or intimidating.....faith doesn't have to be discussed as if the only thing it deals with is going to heaven or hell when one dies. Discussing that kind of faith in isolation from the broad spectrum of what faith can be tends to lead to rigid and defensive discussions I think but maybe I am wrong about this.

Anyway, me personally, I'm not that much into the earthshaking kind of faith but rather more practical kind of faith. I think that for me I have faith that if I am not negligent of discernment, guard the truth, am devoted to relinquishment, and train only for calm (https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.140.than.html&sa=U&ved=0ahUKEwjEsIG3773VAhWK2LwKHZHhAkUQFggGMAE&client=internal-uds-cse&usg=AFQjCNEbyFpaRP1upPWjR0bZayEjK0aCfw) that I will be able to follow the path. I guess it is that I have faith that residing in this fathom long body I do have the opportunity to progress through my own efforts.

chownah

Aloka
05 Aug 17, 15:46
As we were talking about faith, I thought I'd add this very short video in which Soto Zen teacher Brad Warner talks for two and a half minutes about faith in the context of Zen Buddhism.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUouuriBex0

Aloka
06 Aug 17, 06:49
Anyway, me personally, I'm not that much into the earthshaking kind of faith but rather more practical kind of faith. I think that for me I have faith that if I am not negligent of discernment, guard the truth, am devoted to relinquishment, and train only for calm (https://www.google.com/url?q=http://...R0bZayEjK0aCfw) that I will be able to follow the path. I guess it is that I have faith that residing in this fathom long body I do have the opportunity to progress through my own efforts.



Sure, but in my case, critical thinking was essential in helping me to move away from practising Vajrayana, because I could no longer have blind faith in some of the teachings, nor continue to fully accept the excessive "guru devotion" that was required in order to be fully involved in that tradition.

Additionally, it's impressionable students having blind faith rather than applying rational/critical thinking that has allowed various guru scandals to take place in secrecy over a number of years,until they've been exposed publicly. (Or in Sogyal Rinpoche's most recent scandal, apparently punching a nun in front of a large assembly of students.)

https://buddhism-controversy-blog.com/2017/07/22/abuse-letter-to-sogyal-rinpoche-from-long-term-rigpa-students/


:dontknow:

chownah
06 Aug 17, 10:38
Sure, but in my case, critical thinking was essential in helping me to move away from practising Vajrayana, because I could no longer have blind faith in some of the teachings, nor continue to fully accept the excessive "guru devotion" that was required in order to be fully involved in that tradition.

That is interesting. Can you describe what aspects of critical thinking you used and how your thinking evolved in its helping you to move away from practising vajryana? If you explain this in detail it might be a model that impressionable students might see and benefit from.
chownah

Aloka
06 Aug 17, 11:40
That is interesting. Can you describe what aspects of critical thinking you used and how your thinking evolved in its helping you to move away from practising vajrayana? If you explain this in detail it might be a model that impressionable students might see and benefit from.
chownah


No I can't, sorry, its too personal.

My advice in general would be not to get brainwashed by anything that's unverifiable - and that there's absolutely nothing wrong in taking a step back from it all and using one's intelligence.

:hands:

chownah
06 Aug 17, 12:23
Quote Originally Posted by chownah View Post

That is interesting. Can you describe what aspects of critical thinking you used and how your thinking evolved in its helping you to move away from practising vajrayana? If you explain this in detail it might be a model that impressionable students might see and benefit from.
chownah
No I can't, sorry, its too personal.

My advice in general would be not to get brainwashed by anything that's unverifiable - and that there's absolutely nothing wrong in taking a step back from it all and using one's intelligence.

:hands:

I think my post wasn't clear. I am not wanting you to relate your personal experiences (especially if they are too personal). I'm wondering if you could just tell us what aspects of critical thinking you used....just the cognitive aspects....in a general sort of way....without refering to any particular application (without refering to your own personal experience).
chownah

Aloka
06 Aug 17, 15:12
I used my common sense, chownah.

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/common_sense

Now lets move on, please.....




:saucer:

chownah
07 Aug 17, 01:39
Moving along then.....
Critical thinking is purported to be (I disagree) a mode of thought by many academics (critical thinking as a concept is mostly a product of the academic community.....especially by those specializing in education). Common sense is a mode of thought often referred to by "laypeople" and by "laypeople" I mean people outside of academia more or less.

Perhaps it would be good to consider if critical thinking and common sense are the same thing....or not....or even if perhaps they are at odds with each other. (Edit: And....if it doesn't make things too confused perhaps we might consider the similarities and differences in how these two relate to faith.)

Ideas?
chownah

Aloka
07 Aug 17, 04:53
We're now at page 8 of this topic and to be honest I don't see any point in continuing on and on trying to write even more definitions of "critical thinking "or whatever, because most people would probably have similar ideas about the meaning anyway.

So I'd like to ask:

Does anyone feel that critical thinking should be applied to some aspects of Buddhist teachings and practice and if so, what are they and why?


:hands:

chownah
07 Aug 17, 05:41
We're now at page 8 of this topic and to be honest I don't see any point in continuing on and on trying to write even more definitions of "critical thinking "or whatever, because most people would probably have similar ideas about the meaning anyway.

So I'd like to ask:

Does anyone feel that critical thinking should be applied to some aspects of Buddhist teachings and practice and if so, what are they and why?


:hands:

Well, I disagree when you say that most people would probably have similar ideas about what "critical thinking" means. For instance, it seems that you and I have different ideas about this. You seem to think that critical thinking and common sense are the same thing if I am understanding your posts correctly....maybe I am wrong. I think that critical thinking and common sense are not the same thing at all and that they are all too often in disagreement.

Also, consider these two sentences:
1. Does anyone feel that critical thinking should be applied to some aspects of Buddhist teachings and practice and if so, what are they and why?
2. Does anyone feel that common sense should be applied to some aspects of Buddhist teachings and practice and if so, what are they and why?

For me the second question seems a bit rhetorical in that some/many/most people would easily say that common sense should be applied to everything.

I think that people don't really like to talk about thinking about thinking. I think that people want to know the results of thinking....they don't want to examine if their thinking process is good enough and they just want to find the answer. They are attached to their answer and if they consider the thinking processes which brought that answer it casts some doubt on their answer.

I propose a third question:
3. Does anyone feel that their own personal style of thinking should be applied to some aspects of Buddhist teachings and practice and if so, what are they and why?

I think that pretty much everyone would whole heartedly agree with applying their own personal style of thinking. I think this is because our own processes of thinking are inextricably bound up with our sense of identity. Thought process are one of the main bases from which we construct the delusional self in my view.....hard to let go of that self....hard to even question it sometimes.

I'm wondering if what you are asking is "Should we think about stuff which is connected with buddhist practices?"....but the answer when phrased this way is too obvious..."of course we should think about stuff".....but if one asked "should we use critical thinking about stuff etc." is sort of intimidating in that it makes one have to think about thinking and that is threatening to the self.
(I want to point out that I am not explaining critical thinking with this post...I am trying to address the issue of thinking about thinking and people's reluctance to do that.)
chownah

Aloka
07 Aug 17, 06:46
You seem to think that critical thinking and common sense are the same thing....

That's not what I said, or thought.

I think it might be worth looking again at the short article "A Critical Mind" (by a Tibetan Buddhist monk) that I referenced in page 1 of the thread and which concludes :


Whenever you study Buddhism please do it with an open and critical mind. That way you will be on the right track.


http://buddhismguide.org/a-critical-mind/


I don't have anything more to say in this topic for the moment, thanks chownah.

Perhaps someone else will.

:hands:

binocular
07 Aug 17, 18:06
Does anyone feel that critical thinking should be applied to some aspects of Buddhist teachings and practice and if so, what are they and why?
Duh. Everyone applies whatever they consider "critical thinking" or "common sense".

binocular
07 Aug 17, 18:28
I think that people don't really like to talk about thinking about thinking.
Absolutely agree.


I think that people want to know the results of thinking....they don't want to examine if their thinking process is good enough and they just want to find the answer. They are attached to their answer and if they consider the thinking processes which brought that answer it casts some doubt on their answer.
I disagree.
I think many people don't like to talk about their epistemic heuristics, especially not to strangers, for several reasons. At least some of those reasons are:
-- a specific sense of personal boundaries and appropriateness
-- not wanting to reveal one's secrets that could give the opponent an advantage

For example, years back, I was watching a pop quiz with someone. The moderator of the show and a contestant were chit-chatting between the quiz questions. At some point, the contestant said that his personal philosophy is "Don't think in problems, but think in solutions." The person sitting next to me commented on this, "Why is this contestant revealing such personal things?! This is inappropriate, one shouldn't say such things to others, especially not on a tv show that will be seen by thousands of people."
I was baffled by this comment, because what the contestant was saying didn't seem too personal to me at all. Alas, to some people it is ...


I propose a third question:
3. Does anyone feel that their own personal style of thinking should be applied to some aspects of Buddhist teachings and practice and if so, what are they and why?
You know that everyone with at least a bit of education or decorum will know that the above implies solipsism or epistemic egoism (or even epistemic narcissism), so people will either avoid your question, or give a pc answer.


I think that pretty much everyone would whole heartedly agree with applying their own personal style of thinking.
I disagree. I think most people would wholeheartedly agree with what they consider applying objective/neutral/common-sense thinking.


our own processes of thinking are inextricably bound up with our sense of identity.
I agree that our own processes of thinking are inextricably bound up with our sense of identity. But I think that most people are common-sense realists (or: naive realists) so they believe that the way they see things is the way things pretty much are. I think most people don't think that what they have are opinions or perceptions (as results of an active process of perception); they believe that they know The Truth and that they are for the most part, beyond mere opinions.


hard to let go of that self....hard to even question it sometimes.
Can you provide a sutta (preferrably pm it to me, since it's off-topic here) that actually talks about letting go of one's sense of self as a deliberate process? It is my understanding that that letting go is something that results from one's practice, not something one does.


but if one asked "should we use critical thinking about stuff etc." is sort of intimidating in that it makes one have to think about thinking and that is threatening to the self.
I disagree. I think that some of the first notions that people usurp for themselves are notions of rationality, truth, critical thinking -- as in "The way I think is true/rational/honest/appropriate/critical. Anyone who thinks differently is less or more wrong, or dishonest, delusional, or lying."

You'll have a hard time finding someone who actually thinks that their mind is sometimes in the gutter; and even harder to find someone who will admit that to you.

Aloka
07 Aug 17, 18:59
Does anyone feel that critical thinking should be applied to some aspects of Buddhist teachings and practice and if so, what are they and why?


Duh. Everyone applies whatever they consider "critical thinking" or "common sense".



How wonderful that you know "everyone," binocular!

binocular
07 Aug 17, 20:14
How wonderful that you know "everyone," binocular!
Gee. You think there are people who believe that they are not applying whatever they consider "critical thinking" or "common sense"?

binocular
07 Aug 17, 20:26
http://buddhismguide.org/a-critical-mind/

From the above link:

The quote below, taken from the Mahaparinibbana Sutra, makes it clear that we should not blindly believe what we hear, read or are told.

Who on earth does in fact blindly believe what they hear, read, or are told??

Perhaps people in cults, but I suspect even they apply some strategy.

It's naive to think that people are often that naive to "believe what they hear, read, or are told". I think that the idea that people are in fact readily capable of "blindly believing what they hear, read, or are told" is a conjecture and a projection of fervent religious preachers or equally fervent humanist academics, rather than anything else.

Not rarely, religious preachers and academics have a dim view of humans, and gravely underestimate them.

Aloka
07 Aug 17, 20:48
Who on earth does in fact blindly believe what they hear, read, or are told??

Perhaps people in cults, but I suspect even they apply some strategy.

It's naive to think that people are often that naive to "believe what they hear, read, or are told". I think that the idea that people are in fact readily capable of "blindly believing what they hear, read, or are told" is a conjecture and a projection of fervent religious preachers or equally fervent humanist academics, rather than anything else.

Not rarely, religious preachers and academics have a dim view of humans, and gravely underestimate them.


People who are very trusting and have a lot of faith in monks or lay teachers are likely to believe what they are told. I've seen and heard it for myself. How else do you think a guru/master- pupil relationship functions?

Just out of curiosity, how many non-internet Buddhist centres and monasteries have you actually visited and interacted there with other people, binocular? Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that you're not actually a Buddhist yourself, yet have a great deal to say on the internet about Buddhism and practising Buddhists.

chownah
08 Aug 17, 05:44
I think that people want to know the results of thinking....they don't want to examine if their thinking process is good enough and they just want to find the answer. They are attached to their answer and if they consider the thinking processes which brought that answer it casts some doubt on their answer.
I disagree.
I think many people don't like to talk about their epistemic heuristics, especially not to strangers, for several reasons. At least some of those reasons are:
-- a specific sense of personal boundaries and appropriateness
-- not wanting to reveal one's secrets that could give the opponent an advantage



I find some of your posting as being off target in your reply. I'll just point out your first statement of disagreement which I show above as an example....there are others I think. I agree with some of the things you say but I don't see them as being in disagreement with what you are replying to.

I am talking about people wanting to know the results and not wanting to think about how the results were obtained. Your reply talks about people not wanting to talk about things publicly....this has nothing to do with what I said in that excerpt which is about what people think and want...not what they say.

chownah

chownah
08 Aug 17, 05:51
Quote Originally Posted by Aloka View Post

How wonderful that you know "everyone," binocular!Gee. You think there are people who believe that they are not applying whatever they consider "critical thinking" or "common sense"?

I think that this is a good question and of central importance in the discussion. Are there many people who believe that their thinking skills are bad?
It seems to me that the technique called "gas lighting" is used to change people's self image so that they start to question their thinking skills.
Also, isn't this alot to do with what a cult is?....people accepting that their thinking skills are inadequate so they rely on the guru/teacher/cult leader to think for them?

chownah

Aloka
08 Aug 17, 06:10
Also, isn't this alot to do with what a cult is?....people accepting that their thinking skills are inadequate so they rely on the guru/teacher/cult leader to think for them

I don't think people are consciously "accepting that their thinking skills are inadequate" in guru- directed Buddhist groups. They're often so enchanted by the charisma of the teacher and the warmth of the friendliness and devotion of the students that they probably start feeling a sense of belonging, that they have a new purpose in life, and that this is there spiritual "home".

Here's an example from a Tibetan Buddhist website of the attitude one is expected to develop towards one's guru (and Tibetan Buddhism is popular in the west) :





‘Guru Is Buddha,’ a Living in the Path Module

The foundation of the path to enlightenment is the realization of guru devotion—seeing the guru as a buddha. On the basis of this, one makes offerings, offers service, and most importantly, requests advice and follows it. There is no quicker path to enlightenment than this.


http://fpmt.org/edu-news/guru-is-buddha-a-living-in-the-path-module/




.....and there's nothing quite like being in the middle of a Tibetan Buddhist ceremony and having one's senses bombarded with bright colours and images, the strong smell of Tibetan incense, morsels to eat and drops of liquid to swallow, the sounds of monks and nuns chanting and playing Tibetan ritual instruments, receiving the guru's "blessings"....and so on.


:hands:

chownah
08 Aug 17, 14:18
Quote Originally Posted by chownah

Also, isn't this alot to do with what a cult is?....people accepting that their thinking skills are inadequate so they rely on the guru/teacher/cult leader to think for themI don't think people are consciously "accepting that their thinking skills are inadequate" in guru- directed Buddhist groups. They're often so enchanted by the charisma of the teacher and the warmth of the friendliness and devotion of the students that they probably start feeling a sense of belonging, that they have a new purpose in life, and that this is there spiritual "home".


What you say here is a different sort of thing from what I mention in the excerpt which you brought. I think what you describe is a different but similar situation....another route where a person's own thinking can be sidelined.

In post #82 you said:

People who are very trusting and have a lot of faith in monks or lay teachers are likely to believe what they are told. I've seen and heard it for myself. How else do you think a guru/master- pupil relationship functions?

This is perhaps more in line with what I said in the excerpt you brought....they are likely to believe what they are told. They might not consciously consider their own thinking inadequate but then again some of them might have this thought to one degree or another.

The questioning of ones own cognition is put under greater stress when a guru/teacher/cult leader is encountered with more aggressive behavior both physically and mentally. You have probably not encountered or even heard of these kind of things with respect to buddhism but they do exist and from what I gather they exist in all different kinds of buddhism but are more pronounced in types of buddhism where the guru aspect of a teacher is stressed. You might not have heard of them but if you start looking around the internet you will almost assuredly find some evidence. Corruption of monks in thailand is not considered a bizarre occurance here in thailand for example.
chownah

binocular
08 Aug 17, 14:39
People who are very trusting and have a lot of faith in monks or lay teachers are likely to believe what they are told.
I think there's more strategy there.
Normal people engage in a lot of keeping-up of appearances.


I've seen and heard it for myself. How else do you think a guru/master- pupil relationship functions?
Not rarely, subversively.
It took me a while to learn that there is a whole art to pretending one is someone's student and yet having a private life quite untouched by the influence of one's guru.


Just out of curiosity, how many non-internet Buddhist centres and monasteries have you actually visited and interacted there with other people, binocular? Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that you're not actually a Buddhist yourself, yet have a great deal to say on the internet about Buddhism and practising Buddhists.
Uh, again your attempt to discredit me.


I don't think people are consciously "accepting that their thinking skills are inadequate" in guru- directed Buddhist groups. They're often so enchanted by the charisma of the teacher and the warmth of the friendliness and devotion of the students that they probably start feeling a sense of belonging, that they have a new purpose in life, and that this is there spiritual "home".
I think it's mostly strategic pretense, on the part of the students.


Here's an example from a Tibetan Buddhist website of the attitude one is expected to develop towards one's guru (and Tibetan Buddhism is popular in the west) :
I call such things pious exaggerations. Many religions are full of such things, full of such drama, displays of grandeur, and such.


.....and there's nothing quite like being in the middle of a Tibetan Buddhist ceremony and having one's senses bombarded with bright colours and images, the strong smell of Tibetan incense, morsels to eat and drops of liquid to swallow, the sounds of monks and nuns chanting and playing Tibetan ritual instruments, receiving the guru's "blessings"....and so on.
Maybe for you, but certainly not for me.
Such things have no conversive effect on me. I can discern that the facilitators of such events sometimes have the expectation that people should be emotionally moved by such things. But I'm left cold by such things.
Maybe we should go together to some such event sometimes; you'll see how cold I remain and how other people tend to get uncomfortable around me because of my being so unaffected by all the drama.

binocular
08 Aug 17, 15:19
I am talking about people wanting to know the results and not wanting to think about how the results were obtained. Your reply talks about people not wanting to talk about things publicly....this has nothing to do with what I said in that excerpt which is about what people think and want...not what they say.
The issue is moot because if they don't want to talk about it publicly, then how can you know what they want or don't want?

What you're bringing up has more to do with trying to explain other people's silence in these matters. You explain this silence by suggesting that people want to know the results and don't want to think about how the results were obtained. I don't think it can be known whether people indeed want to know the results and don't want to think about how the results were obtained. The nature of this matter is such that if what you're saying is true, there is no way to evidence it (because people don't talk about such things).
I think the silence can be explained as an act of competitive and self-protective strategy: people don't talk about their thinking because doing so could make them vulnerable to others.


I think that this is a good question and of central importance in the discussion. Are there many people who believe that their thinking skills are bad?
I doubt it.


It seems to me that the technique called "gas lighting" is used to change people's self image so that they start to question their thinking skills.
Also, isn't this alot to do with what a cult is?....people accepting that their thinking skills are inadequate so they rely on the guru/teacher/cult leader to think for them?
The psychology of cults is a complex matter ...


The questioning of ones own cognition is put under greater stress when a guru/teacher/cult leader is encountered with more aggressive behavior both physically and mentally.
What is your interpretation of the Milgram Experiment?
Do you agree with the mainstream interpretation that under the pressure of someone in position of power, otherwise good and normal people can do horrible things?
Or are you inclined towards those interepretations that maintain that given the opportunity, otherwise good and normal people will manifest behaviors that are otherwise socially undesirable?

I'm inclined to the latter. I don't believe in the effectiveness of external pressure. People who stay with an aggressive guru don't do so because the guru would subdue them in some way or because they would succomb to the guru's pressure. They stay with such a guru because they themselves have such aggressive tendencies and had them already before they learned about the guru's teachings. Of course, it is problematic to admit to having such tendencies, so once people leave such a guru, they explain themselves as victims -- people seem to prefer to go with the "I was pressured/brainwashed/exploited".


Corruption of monks in thailand is not considered a bizarre occurance here in thailand for example.
What would you say is an ordinary Thai's explanation for the corruption of monks?

woodscooter
08 Aug 17, 16:54
What is your interpretation of the Milgram Experiment?
Do you agree with the mainstream interpretation that under the pressure of someone in position of power, otherwise good and normal people can do horrible things?



Moderation note

This is diverting the topic away from a discussion about the use of critical thinking in connection with the study and practice of Buddhism.


:topic: please.

binocular
08 Aug 17, 17:52
Moderation note

This is diverting the topic away from a discussion about the use of critical thinking in connection with the study and practice of Buddhism.
No, it has everything to do with critical thinking, and the study and practice of Buddhism. It just isn't particularly pc.

McKmike
08 Aug 17, 18:27
I have been following this discussion with interest, I am a great believer in the concept of critical thinking, the problem is that it is a specific skill that takes time and effort to master, even when you have tried to master the concept, ego and conditioning can quite easily result in less than constructive thinking.

In several suttas, the Buddha warned against this with the phrase "is a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. It is accompanied by suffering, distress, despair, & fever, and it does not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation; to calm, direct knowledge, full awakening, Unbinding."

Some of recent posts are, I think, veering toward this warning, it is important to incorporate discernment / critical thinking into the investigation of what Buddhism means for you, as has been pointed out there are a lot of dead ends you can travel along, these are often not in accordance with the Buddha's advice in the Pali Canon.

For me it is always a balance between a discerning intellectual investigation and a mindful awareness of the present moment effect of my actions, a middle way.

chownah
09 Aug 17, 03:19
McKmike,
Thanks for the post I found your sutta excerpt ("is a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. It is accompanied by suffering, distress, despair, & fever, and it does not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation; to calm, direct knowledge, full awakening, Unbinding.") at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.002.than.html and found in that same sutta a couple of excerpts which I think would be good to bring to the discussion:

And what are the fermentations to be abandoned by restraining?....
....
Reflecting appropriately, he dwells restrained with the restraint of the intellect-faculty.
and

And what are the fermentations to be abandoned by developing?....
.....
He develops analysis of qualities as a factor for Awakening..
I view these as an indication that the buddha is teaching that there is certainly a place for intellectual effort in the practice and a place where intellectual effort should not intrude.

chownah

binocular
09 Aug 17, 07:35
Is coming to the conclusion that such things as rebirth and kamma are superstitions or cultural biases, a result of applying critical thinking?

Aloka
09 Aug 17, 10:21
I have been following this discussion with interest...



Good to see you posting again, Mike.


:hands:

Element
09 Aug 17, 12:58
Is coming to the conclusion that such things as rebirth and kamma are superstitions or cultural biases, a result of applying critical thinking?

They are not superstitions. They are real things. But they become superstitions when they are misinterpreted.

There is no single word for 'rebirth' in the original scriptures. Generally, what is translated as 'rebirth' does not necessarily mean 'reincarnation'.

The way most 'rebirth' teachings are expressed in the suttas would indicate there is no result of kamma until after 'death'. Obviously, this is illogical.

Thus all of these various terms/words need to be examined so the Buddha is properly represented as a noble, enlightened & honest human being rather than a bullshit artist.

The suttas in many places depict the Buddha condemning blind faith. Buddhism since its beginning has defined its Dhamma as 'visible here-&-now'. Therefore, a proper understanding of 'kamma & rebirth' arises from respect for the Buddha-Dhamma and respect for the Buddha as fully enlightened.

:peace:

chownah
09 Aug 17, 13:19
Is coming to the conclusion that such things as rebirth and kamma are superstitions or cultural biases, a result of applying critical thinking?

I think that to exactly answer your question: If one applies whatever abilities one has for critical thinking and one comes to the conclusion that such things are superstitions or cultral biases then clearly one could say that that conclusion is a result of critical thinking.

I think you will find my answer inadequate. Are you meaning to ask if critical thinking will inevitably lead to the conclusion that rebirth and kamma are supersititions or cultural biases ?

Note: I think I used critical thinking in conjuring my answer. Actually I think I used some of the cognitive skills on the list of cognitive skills commonly called "critical thinking". (The wikipedia article on cognition warns that "The term "cognition" is often incorrectly used to mean "cognitive abilities" or "cognitive skills.") To list the skills I used would be difficult I think even for conjuring this simple reply. Understand the skills needed in a "critical thinking" project directed at rebirth or kamma would be much more difficult I think but don't know for sure.

Is anyone up for relating what cognitive skills might be used in evaluating rebirth or kamma? Even a partial list would be impressive. I doubt that anyone is up for this but maybe I am wrong. I doubt that any of us here have the knowledge to give an informed talk about those various skills and how they are coordinated....it is not as simple as just saying "use critical thinking" if you really want to understand what is going on to the extent that you can conceptualize the coming to a conclusion concerning rebirth of kamma.

Of course one could just answer the question "yes" or "no" and then thrash around with a bundle of poorly defined (or probably undefined) concepts and then even if agreement can be reached it will be an agreement not grounded in critical thinking....but then that does not mean that it would be worthless.....worthwhile things sometimes come from places other than "critical thinking".

No time to proof read now....hope it is readable.

chownah

McKmike
10 Aug 17, 09:24
Hi Chownah

I think your post #96, neatly illustrates the problem with the concept of critical thinking, the idea that by thinking sceptically equals critical thinking, actual critical thinking is more like the scientific method of proposing an hypothesis, gathering information and devising a test that can be repeated, then drawing conclusions that are bias free, from the results, this is not then put forward as truth, but a state of the current understanding which is then open for the next round of critical thinking, as and when understanding in related areas move on.

It is not your own biases, favoured theories, closely held prejudices dressed up in a little sceptical garnish and presented as critical thinking, this is why formal training is required in the skill of critical thinking, without it there can be nothing else but opinion, as I am fond of saying nothing comes from nothing, I think it is magical thinking to believe you can critically think without some study into the method.

For me this alone means that few people have the skills necessary to use critical thinking effectively in the study of the dhamma, the best I hope for is some discernment and a deliberate open mind that has the willingness to recognise what I do not understand and put that aside for further study rather than attempt to fit it into a paradigm I hold dear

Aloka
20 Aug 17, 09:29
This morning I came across this 157 page article " Buddhist Critical Thinking Skills" by Dr. Dion Peoples.

I haven't read it myself but someone else might be interested.

https://www.academia.edu/2344610/Buddhist_Critical_Thinking_Skills_-_revised_17_January_2013


:hands: